It’s been proven that beauty is refined in diversity. Because when we take a canvas and mix, or melt, all the colors together into a single composition, it blocks individual characteristics and essentially creates a void of color.
So, to me, America is not a melting pot. It’s a kaleidoscope of color.
By allowing each individual color’s unique properties to shine on its own part of the canvas, it brings out a composition that is pure, and ‘cultured’ because it’s free of our own coarse perceptions of what is beautiful. That’s also how I see diversity and the cultural contributions of immigrants in the U.S., and why I became inspired to join and partner with the Welcome.us campaign celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month in June.
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In America, especially in recent years, we’ve gratefully had opportunities to chase our dreams, to travel, and to see and get to know the world through the places we go and people we meet along the way. Along the way, we discover affinities and commonalities, not by mixing them up, but rather by viewing them in light of their natural beauty, and then adopting them with an open heart.
But only if you let your guard down.
It takes courage, knowledge, empathy and love to do that. I think for most people who have ever gone to a local cultural event or traveled abroad, and gone out of their comfort zone, they get it.
I founded the cultural event company MezzeCulture in 2015 and the online magazine Mezze Weekly this year to help more people do that. To encourage the nearly half of Americans who’ve never traveled abroad to do it, and those who have to do more of it. Both communities are about exploring cultures through stories and activities in your backyard. Local businesses become beacons of world discovery, for getting to know the world in our own backyards.
Nearly 1 in 5 small businesses, and almost 40% of restaurants are owned by recent immigrants, those who are foreign born, first or second generation immigrants. Why? Because they’ve gone out of their comfort zone too and reaped the rewards. They have a cultural story, and are eager to share it with anyone who is willing to listen and in the cases of services businesses like restaurants and musicians, to experience it socially.
It is when we can see, empathize with and appreciate the characteristics of the individual, that the ever changing beautiful canvas of a kaleidoscope comes into view. America’s rich multicultural heritage makes it the most diverse country in the world. It is home to 189 million citizens spanning 15 ancestries, and over 80 million foreign-born, first- and second-generation Americans.
Yet only half of our country has ever traveled abroad.
I’m grateful to have traveled internationally, letting my guard down, learning to bridge different cultures—both as an American and as the daughter of immigrant parents. My experiences have brought an inherent understanding of the unique challenges of being an American of recent immigrants, but also of the multidimensional refinement of our perception of beauty when one culture is allowed to be positioned next to another.
For the half of Americans who have passports and have experienced the diversity in the world, millions are shedding light on the beauty of our local immigrant communities. It is only when international experiences—whether abroad or locally—reach the heart that empathy can develop to illuminate the beauty of diversity in our own backyards.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was born in America in 1983, as a first generation American to immigrant parents of Middle Eastern heritage, and today feel fortunate to live in a country that has the greatest potential to be tolerant of differences, where we can get to know people of different backgrounds because of America’s heritage.
I’m also proud to be a Welcome.us partner because I believe that by elevating the worldwide influences that make America unique, we can break down barriers, span distances and bridge cultural divides by uplifting the history, authenticity and charm of our country’s rich multicultural heritage.
It’s a privilege to share my story to support the like-minded mission of Welcome.us co-founder Tolu Olubunmi, and her team, who are showcasing the inspirational stories of American immigrants, who will one day ha e the same opportunities as citizens who came before them. residents who MezzeCulture is my way of helping to elevate immigrant businesses in local communities by turning international travel experiences inside out and illuminate them locally.
In an age of globalization, it’s often easy to forget the origin and value of the unique people and places around us, but through MezzeCulture and Mezze Weekly’s communities, local businesses and partners we can unite across diversity by celebrating cultural heritage through every destination, experience and story contributed to both platforms to intersect the cultural affinities we have in common.
At both MezzeCulture and Mezze Weekly, this collective effort can expand not only cultural tourism in every city the platform reaches, but also creative and enrichment tourism activities anywhere. The MezzeCulture platform is starting with Austin, Houston, Miami, Washington DC, New York City, and San Francisco.
For more than half of Americans who have never traveled abroad and even for veteran travelers who relish in authentic cultural experiences, barriers often get in the way of international travel. My hope is that both MezzeCulture and Mezze Weekly encourage people to get to know the world through the cultures, traditions and origins of the immigrants around them in addition to the inspiration they’re used to through guide books, online media and television.
By trying international culture expressed through food, drink, music, shopping, and more locally, people can be inspired to integrate, embrace and overcome barriers like cultural knowledge, and time, hassle or cost of travel, while sampling international activities in their own city to illuminate a kaleidoscope of color, so to say.
Sources: Ancestry statistics according to the 2000 U.S. Census; Immigration statistics according to a 2015 MigrationPolicy.org article.